One of the many great things about Italians is that they love to talk and talk they do.
They speak with their friends while window shopping, they shout greetings across piazza’s and restaurants and they speak non-stop into their cell phones. On trains the constant chatter can sound like an electrical buzz.
I have engaged in conversations with Italians I have just met where I don’t think either one of us had any idea what the other was saying. When I was traveling through Italy by myself in 2012 I had long conversations on trains and in restaurants where I was just hoping I was not inviting anyone to come stay with me although that may have made my trip more interesting.
I speak a little Italian and what little Italian I speak, I speak very slowly.
Italians on the other hand speak as fast as they can. They speak Italian very fast and they speak English very fast no matter how well they speak English it comes at you very fast. It can knock you off your game a little, on the other hand it does not give you any time to overthink your response.
I practice Italian in my head for months before I leave.
Thinking how will I say this or how will I ask that? Once I am there I go into panic mode and words come spewing out of my mouth in what I can only assume is a jumble of nonsense which does not seem to bother the Italians I meet in the least since they always provide a response.
You meet people from all over the world when you travel.
I have met fellow travels from New Zealand who when they leave home leave for at least 6 weeks since everything is so far and who I may say had the smallest suitcases of anyone I have seen traveling for 6 weeks.
I met two lovely ladies from Leeds, England when I was in Belagio.
We bonded while waiting in line to use the questionable looking bathroom at a train station. We met up for several dinners during our stay in Bellagio. They were the opposite of the New Zealand couple as they were traveling with the biggest suitcases I have ever seen. They were surprised by how all the Americans they met knew so much about the royal family and I was surprised by how little they knew about the royal family.
While in Padua last year I met a young British man who warned me off going to Venice because it was packed with Americans and then apologized profusely in case he had offended me.
While in Barcelona one of my traveling companions ran into a friend of hers from Atlanta in front of the Sagrada Familia. What are the chances?
I once walked around the caves in southern France with a French woman who spoke to me the whole time in French. We both laughed and looked serious at the appropriate times with my only throwing in the occasional “Oui” or “Mon Dieu”. Afterward we exchanged “la bise” and went on our way.
My friends later confronted me with a “we thought you did not speak French” to which I replied “I don’t, I had no idea what she was saying”. Laughter is also a part of travel.
Last year in Modena my friend and I were sitting at a table in a caffé in a small piazza enjoying a glass of Prosecco and a snack. A group of college age kids came and sat next to us.
As they started speaking with each other we detected the smooth, lilting accent of the American south. Turns out they were students from the University of Georgia visiting Italy for a semester.
They were all studying to be teachers and each was enjoying a very different experience with their Italian host family. They gave us tips on what to see and do in Modena as well as the surrounding area since they spent their weekends exploring Italy.
Meeting people when you travel only enriches your overall travel experience.
Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation, no matter what happens it will only add to the stories you will be able to tell when you return home.